Wed, Jul 30, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Hardliners protest against looming Karadzic transfer

AFP , BELGRADE

Belgrade braced yesterday for an ultra-nationalist protest rally in defiance of Radovan Karadzic’s arrest and impending transfer to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The rally in the Serbian capital, where Karadzic is being detained in prison, has been organized by the hardline Radical Party and backed by the party former nationalist prime minister Vojislav Kostunica, both sidelined after May 11 polls.

The Radicals hope “tens of thousands” of Karadzic loyalists from across the country would attend the protest, which came a week after the wartime Bosnian Serb leader was captured in disguise as an alternative medicine guru.

A firebrand leader of the ultra-nationalist party, Aleksandar Vucic, said the demonstration was against Serbia’s pro-Western President Boris Tadic for ordering Karadzic’s arrest.

“The protest is against the treacherous and dictatorial regime” of Tadic, he told journalists ahead of the demonstration, the first major show of force against Karadzic’s arrest.

The demonstration was expected to be the biggest in Belgrade since February, when 150,000 protested Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in a rally that sparked attacks on Western embassies, wild rioting and looting.

It was scheduled to start at 7pm in Belgrade’s main Republic Square, which is much smaller than the area where the Kosovo rally was staged in front of the old Yugoslav parliament building.

Vucic had called for a peaceful march through Belgrade’s central streets to show the “unity of all the free people of Serbia,” while Karadzic’s brother Luka had promised a “Gandhi-like” protest.

Karadzic is fighting his transfer to The Hague, where he stands accused of playing a leading role in the siege of Sarajevo and Srebrenica massacre of Muslim males, the bloodiest single atrocity in Europe since World War II.

But his lawyer Svetozar Vujacic openly admits the appeal, posted by regular mail at the latest possible moment before the weekend, is a tactic designed to delay his transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

And the appeal was still in the post yesterday, said Ivana Ramic, the spokeswoman for its intended recipients at Serbia’s special war crimes court.

Once the appeal is received, a three-judge panel of the court has three days to decide on its merits before the justice ministry must issue a final order for the transfer.

Despite some reports to the contrary, Serbia is unlikely to order the transfer of Karadzic until after the protest in order to avoid the risk of it getting out of hand like the Kosovo rally.

Riot police will turn out in force to avoid a repeat of that, or any attacks on journalists like those that have marred smaller daily protests that have been staged in support of Karadzic since his capture.

Karadzic, 63, was arrested on July 21 while riding a suburban bus through Belgrade, after more than a decade on the run disguised as a specialist in “human quantum energy.”

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